RIO DE JANEIRO (JTA) — A Brazilian campaign has been launched to help Holocaust survivors receive unpaid compensation from the New York-based group that handles German reparations for Nazi atrocities against Jews.
The Brazilian Jewish charity Unibes says quarterly grants to more than 200 elderly survivors in dire financial straits have not been paid regularly by the Claims Conference to the organization, which is responsible for transferring the money.
Jackie Schwartz, daughter of 91-year-old Auschwitz survivor Gabriela Heilbraun, says the situation has been ongoing since 2017. In 2019, only one payment has been made.
“Unibes repeatedly says New York is guilty. I was shouted at. My mother suffers from several heart problems and we can’t afford this week’s medications. This is very painful,” Schwartz wrote in a private message she sent to Israel’s honorary consul in Rio, Osias Wurman.
The lack of payment was widely publicized after Wurman, a journalist and local Jewish leader, offered his personal media platform to boost the survivors’ cry for help.
“Send the message below to Claims Conference: We have heard that your bank transfer systems have been changed, which is causing this unbearable delay. We ask for the urgent regularization to avoid further moral damage to our dear survivors,” Wurman wrote Sunday to subscribers of his Rua Judaica newsletter.
On Wednesday, the Claims Conference said it was addressing the issue.
“A wide variety of services are provided to 223 Holocaust survivors living in Brazil. Our partnership with Unibes spans more than a decade,” the Claims Conference said in a statement provided to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “We have made an emergency payment that should arrive this week to alleviate the immediate crisis while we work together with them to identify and resolve the problem.”
Unibes’ president, Denise Antao, told JTA on Tuesday the Claims Conference was “certainly trying to solve this problem to the best of their ability.”
“In parallel, we’re getting in touch with the survivors to explain the situation,” she said.
Szjya Lorber, the president of B’nai B’rith’s branch in Curitiba, told JTA that the Unibes campaign “deserves our full support.”
“Wurman sensitized the appeal to save survivors experiencing difficulties,” Lorber said. “I was one of the first to join.”